Gibbs: Brunell Isn't the Sole Problem

While many are calling for the benching of 36-year-old quarterback Mark Brunell, head coach Joe Gibbs doesn't think he's the sole problem with the Washington offense. Find out more in this report from

Joe Gibbs has never been one to switch quarterbacks because of a couple of bad games. Remember it took nine weeks for the coach to replace the struggling Mark Brunell with former starter Patrick Ramsey in 2004. So despite Washington's ugly 2-4 start, Gibbs isn't about to bench the 36-year-old Brunell for Jason Campbell, who has never taken a regular season snap.
"I'm not afraid to change anything and I don't think I would hesitate to change something if it was for the good of our team," Gibbs said. "Changing Mark right now isn't the answer. Mark's like all of us offensively. He mirrors what's going on. The first half (Sunday), he played extremely well, and we as a group played well. We've been productive at times and inconsistent at times."

After completing 11 of 14 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first half Sunday against visiting Tennessee, Brunell was 5-for-16 for 77 yards in the second half as the Redskins blew a 14-3 lead and lost 25-22 to the previously winless Titans. Brunell is 12th in the NFL passer ratings at 86.9.

Brunell has lost most of his arm strength -- his last-minute interception was a dying quail -- and the vast majority of his throws don't go beyond 10 yards. That was fine in the Houston and Jacksonville games when he was spreading the ball around, but the past two weeks, he has locked onto one target like a rookie quarterback and you can't get away with that with a weak arm. Tight end Chris Cooley was the destination for nine of Brunell's 22 throws in the 19-3 loss to the Giants on Oct. 8 and receiver Santana Moss was the target of 15 of his 30 passes against the Titans. Brunell threw to Moss' wideouts Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd, completing two for 68 yards, 18 more than Moss gained on his five catches.

"You definitely have to be reading the coverages," Gibbs said. "You can't just go back and say, 'We're going to throw the ball here.' You can do that on short stuff and screens that we've designed for Santana because he's such a good runner. We would love to get the ball to Santana, but hopefully Mark is following his reads." 

Play-caller Al Saunders said, "I don't get a sense that Mark's looking for Santana all the time." However, Brunell admitted that he favors Moss, with whom he established great chemistry almost as soon as they became teammates last year.

"Every defense we've faced knows that we want to get Santana the ball," Brunell said. "And he's still getting the ball. He's our best receiver."

But is Brunell a better quarterback than Campbell, for whom the Redskins traded three picks to move up to draft 25th overall in 2005, or veteran backup Todd Collins, who knows Saunders' system as well as any player in the league after being in it for six years?

"Jason has worked extremely hard," Gibbs said. "We've got a lot invested in him. Someday he's going to be the future here. None of that has changed. Mark's three games away from setting a record in the NFL (with 22 straight completions against the Texans). If I felt like it was one person, certainly I would change that person. When we play the way we did in the first half, it shows we're capable. We just didn't sustain it."

--S Troy Vincent will play in the 200th game of his 15-year career on Sunday at Indianapolis. It will be Vincent's first game as a Redskin after four years in Miami, eight in Philadelphia and two in Buffalo.
-- LG Derrick Dockery, who was slowed by an ailing hip last week but started his 51st consecutive game against Tennessee, will likely be slowed again this week after aggravating the injury against the Titans.
-- RB Ladell Betts has a career-high 18 catches after just six games. Betts' previous best was 15 catches in 2003 and 2004.
-- QB Mark Brunell threw the 4,500th pass of his career in the loss to Tennessee. Brunell is fourth among active quarterbacks, trailing only Green Bay's Brett Favre, Dallas' Drew Bledsoe and Indianapolis' Peyton Manning.
--RB Clinton Portis' 10-yard TD against Tennessee gave him five in six games, putting him on pace for 13, which would be the most by a Redskin since RB Stephen Davis had 17 in 1999.
--TE Chris Cooley's 24-yard TD catch against the Titans ended a 6-game scoring drought dating back to the 2005 finale that followed a stretch in which Cooley had five touchdowns in four games.
--WR Santana Moss' 35-yard run against the Titans was the longest of his 34 career carries.
--WR Antwaan Randle El had double-digit plays on a catch (16 yards), a run (12) and a punt return (17) against Tennessee.
--FS Sean Taylor claimed the team lead in tackles for the season with 47 after making 10 stops against the Titans.

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